Austin previews Project Connect transit station at Pleasant Valley, E. Riverside

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Following community engagement workshops, Austin Transit Partnership leaders previewed design proposals for the S. Pleasant Valley Road and E. Riverside Drive transit station Wednesday. (Rendering courtesy: Austin Transit Partnership)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Amid ongoing community design workshops to highlight different Project Connect proposals in the works, Austin leaders previewed the upcoming light rail and bus transit station at S. Pleasant Valley Road and E. Riverside Drive Wednesday.

Peter Mullan, chief of architecture and urban design for Austin Transit Partnership, noted the complexity of the location’s topography and location along a steep, uphill slope. Key areas of emphasis for the station’s design include ease of travel and accessibility, user experience, placemaking features and sustainability.

Mullan said the highest priority for the transit station is ensuring all forms of transportation, including non-vehicular transit, is accessible across ages and physical abilities. Two design options presented at community workshops were shared with the ATP Wednesday.

The first featured a blue line underpass, which would include a landscape bridge over top, with Pleasant Valley Road above the transit line. It would also include MetroRapid stops north of its intersection with E. Riverside Drive.

The second option highlighted an at-grade transit plaza, meaning the plaza is at the same level as the roadway and doesn’t feature an underpass or overpass. The Blue Line and MetroRapid transit plaza would be located on E. Riverside Drive, with access to Pleasant Valley Road via an “elongated roundabout.”

Each option presented its own pros and cons, Mullan said: for Option 1, the benefits included faster transit modes for vehicle and bus traffic and pedestrians, cyclists and other forms of transit not crossing the rail line at grade. The drawbacks include the requirement of an elevator connecting the underpass station with at-grade transit and a higher overall cost.

For Option 2, he said there is more effective connectivity between bus and rail modes due to an at-level, integrated transit center. Mullan added there are also opportunities to utilize more public space, and the project features lower costs.

(Rendering courtesy: Austin Transit Partnership)

However, he noted at-grade crossings for pedestrians, vehicles and buses with the light rail posed its own challenges, and the proposal would be slower for vehicular traffic.

Through community workshops, Mullan said concerns raised by residents included flooding, pedestrian crossings and related safety, connections to the Country Club Creek Trail and the potential of a public elevator breaking down.

On the open space features, ideas proposed by residents included art installations and space for live music; restrooms; food vendors; charging stations; bike parking; shade features; and enhanced landscaping.

Mayor Steve Adler shared his personal concerns on an at-grade crossing for pedestrians and light rail transit. Mullan said that if Option 2 were selected, design elements would be in place to help direct traffic on how to safely navigate the intersection.

ATP Board Member Tony Elkins added that, as with all projects, some elements will have to be prioritized while others are modified to fit the budget and timeline of the program.

“These are all trade-off type designs,” he said.

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